Back Into a Commercially Built Camper

We finally bit the bullet and transitioned back to a commercially built camper. We’re going to use our cargo sport for storage, so we’ll recapture some of the value. I’ll be painfully honest, most of the money we spent on our cargo conversion was simply wasted. That was a hard lesson and a hard thing to admit.

We ended up getting a camper that was longer than I wanted but smaller than the wife wanted. It’s listed as 25 feet but it’s really 30 overall. 30 feet is a long ass trailer and that’s going to be a tough fit in a lot of spaces, especially in really space-conscious campgrounds like we have in the Keys. Down there you have to inhale to get your camper in some spaces and, many times, my friends end up backing in all the way from the road! I’m awesome going forward, terrible in reverse.

Blinded By Hate

In our camper quest I was blinded by my hatred of EPDM and other rubberized fabric roofs. To get away from a fabric roof, you either have to spend a LOT of money or get a camper small enough that the roof is made with a single sheet of fiberglass. Airstreams are all aluminum, including the roof, but cost as much as a house. Smaller campers like, Tag, Forest River R-Pods, and Calista all top out at around 19 feet. The only way I could get all aluminum construction for under $40K was a cargo conversion.

Outdoor cooking is a must in RV living, especially when cooking fish or something smelly.

The camper we bought has a rubberized membrane roof. However, the dealership where we bought it offers a roof maintenance program. You bring it in twice a year and they maintain the roof, for free, for five years (that includes labor). That’s probably as long as we’re going to have that camper anyway and I can at least look forward to five years of a tight roof. Plus the camper we bought, a KZ Connect, has the roof membrane extend over the top corner and is seamed along the side of the camper with a gutter that funnels water away from the seam. That should help a little.

Our brand new Heartland Bighorn, our first full-time camper, leaked like a sieve. The front cap leaked and collected water like a bathtub, the back cap leaked and rotted the floorboards and ruined the carpet. I worked on the roof, my RV guy worked on the roof and it still leaked like crazy.

Know Thyself

A lot of people lead perfectly successful full-time RV lives in cargo conversions. Most of those people are more skilled at building things than I am. Before you think about trying it yourself, understand that it’s an amazing amount of work, a lot of expense, and, even if you’re a skilled craftsman, you’re still going to run into places telling you that it’s not a “real” camper. I had one person call my Cargo/Sport a “thing” to my face. I was shocked, hurt, and insulted in equal measure.

Part of that bias here is the area. South Florida is as much Snottyville as it is Margaritaville these days. People with behemoth Class A’s and $90,000 5th wheels, don’t want to live next door to a Cargo/Sport. They’re probably not going to like living next to our Connect, but it’s a real camper, it flies under the park regs, and the snooty neighbors from up north can kiss my big, furry, white butt.

Out west things are a little more freewheeling. There are people building off-grid homes out of tires stuffed with dirt, compressed hay bales, and adobe. Finding space for your cargo conversion is less of a problem and certainly there’s less stigma.

So, there it is. My $10,000 wasted journey in pursuit of a one-piece aluminum roof. That roof is now going to sit in an RV storage facility and function as our storage unit and my kayak storage shed. That will save us a bit of money and we’ll need it to move when we build our concrete dome home but we could have rented a U-Haul for $75 bucks and gone to Vegas on the balance and had a small, but non-zero chance of winning our money back.

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